ST. LOUIS — If the Boston Bruins go on to lift the Stanley Cup later this week, Patrice’s speech will live in lore alongside Tuukka’s dominance and Zdeno Chara’s return from a broken jaw.
This playoff run was in danger of ending right here. There were more than 100,000 people gathered outside Enterprise Center in anticipation of the St. Louis Blues closing out their first ever championship on Sunday, and with the heat turned up to 100 before Game 6 it was Patrice Bergeron that adjusted the emotional thermostat in the visiting room.
Bergeron is a conqueror of two Olympic finals and a Stanley Cup Final, and is not the type to waste his words. The ones he spoke with Boston’s season on the line struck a chord that helped set the stage for Game 7 back in the friendly confines of TD Garden.
"It was exactly what we needed," said 21-year-old defenceman Charlie McAvoy, Boston’s ice time leader in these playoffs and a self-proclaimed emotional wreck before the game.
"It was an element of what the dream is: Growing up, every one of us shares the same dream and kind of just bringing us all to a point where we can all be on the same field. We were all a little kid once and we all wanted this bad. And I think it was just an element of savouring this moment and not letting it end tonight."
Bergeron backed it up, too.
He was one of the few Boston skaters who kept the puck moving in the right direction during a tense first period. It is basically an open secret at this point that he’s playing at well less than 100 per cent, but that didn’t keep him from firing three shots on goal during the key opening 20.
"He’s a legend," said 22-year-old Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk. "To see him kind of set the tone that way made us want to run through a wall."
Now, the game wasn’t won with a speech.
It took another 28 saves from Tuukka Rask — the Conn Smythe favourite who has allowed four goals in five elimination games this spring — and a well-executed 5-on-3 power play in the first period that was finished off by a Brad Marchand snipe.
That calmed some nerves on the Bruins bench after a furious early surge by the Blues. It was 1-0 at the first intermission, but St. Louis was winning board battles and bringing a heavy forecheck.
"Even though we came out with the lead, I thought we got stuck there a lot," said Boston coach Bruce Cassidy. "If that trend continued, I thought it was going to be tough for us tonight — we’re really relying on our goaltender."
The Bruins started to take back some territory in the second period and caught a break when Brandon Carlo’s point shot took a wicked hop and slipped through Jordan Binnington less than three minutes into the third.
An avalanche of goals followed in what became a 5-1 Boston victory.
"I thought it was an even game, really," said Blues coach Craig Berube. "Two periods, it’s tight hockey. There’s not a lot of room out there. I’ll credit Boston. They played well. They checked well. They didn’t give us a ton of room out there."
They played like a team that had been there before, in part, because a few of them had. Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Rask and David Krejci were each part of the last Game 7 played in a Stanley Cup Final — and celebratory pictures from their 2011 victory in Vancouver once again were brought to St. Louis and hung up in the dressing room.
It didn’t go unnoticed among the Boston players that a couple celebratory ads were accidentally released by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday morning either. Call it a little more fuel for the fire.
While the St. Louis players had to deal with family and friends travelling in for a potential celebration, Bergeron and the other Bruins veterans started setting a tone that will continue to be important until puck drop on Wednesday night.
"We’re going to have to live a bit what St. Louis did today," said Cassidy. "Now you’re going home, the Stanley Cup’s in the building, someone’s winning it and you’ve got a lot of new friends all of a sudden. Or old ones are coming out of the woodwork.
"I think the message, they’ve been good at that: ‘Stay in your bubble, take care of your immediate family, but catch up with your friends on Thursday type of thing."’
This Bruins’ core is constructed of serial winners.
They have helped bring along the young players who now have the team in position to win another title. Credit Bergeron with a primary assist for helping them put the celebration on hold in St. Louis and force a Game 7.
"I’ve been dreaming of this moment for my whole life — to win this trophy," said McAvoy. "That’s really all it is, is just a dream, and then all of a sudden you’re here. It’s gone by fast. We’re already here in Game 7.
"I’ll be damned if I blink. There’s no time to be worried or to be nervous about this situation. There’s guys who never get a chance to play here and I’ll be damned if I spend a second just not being grateful and just playing the best that I can."